Reporter: Lauren Compton I Videographer: Ira Quillen
Altavista,VA- Investigators say a mulch fire sparked the flames that destroyed the First National Bank in Altavista on Tuesday.
The fast raging fire started at the First National Bank a little after 3 p.m. Fortunately, all six employees of the bank and one customer made out it safe thanks to Lieutenant Kenneth Moorefield, an Altavista police officer who was patrolling the area.
"I pulled up to the bank, and advised people to evacuate, and I told them the bank was on fire. I went and got a fire extinguisher from my car, and attempted to put the blaze out," said Lt. Moorefield.
But it was already too late.
"It was growing. The fire extinguisher helped put the shrubbery out, but the fire had already gotten up in the eaves. You could see it going up into the shingle part of the building," said Lt. Moorefield.
"It was so quick; you could feel the heat from where we're standing," said Todd Hall, president and CEO of the First National Bank.
About 40 firefighters from Pittsylvania County, Hurt, Altavista and Evington battled the quick moving blaze. Fire officials say the way the fire spread made it difficult to attack.
"At that time it's really dangerous for us to get inside so at time we deploy what we call a defensive attack," said Randall Johnson, the Altavista fire marshal.
Fire crews used hoses and a ladder truck to spray down the flames. When it was all over, the employees of the bank stood in awe, many thankful they were standing on the other side of the blaze safe and unharmed.
"Our main concern that no one got hurt, none of our employees or any customers got hurt in this fire," said Hall.
Over the next few days, bank officials will be working to salvage what they can in the building. If you use the First National Bank in Altavista, there are seven other locations where you can do business. And, the President of the bank says they may set up a mobile bank in the Town and Country shopping center.